Lazy Caturday Reads

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Olga Sacharoff Young woman with cat

Olga Sacharoff, Young woman with cat

Last night the Memphis Police released video of the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols–a young man who weighed 140 pounds–by five police officers after a routine traffic stop. It is horrific and inexplicable. At one point one of the officers lifted Nichols’ limp body up so the others could more easily punch and kick him. Nichols never got any explanation of why he had been stopped. Toward the end of the beating he called out for his mother.

The New York Times provides a brief analysis the video in a series of live updates of the coverage: Video Captures Brutal Beating of Tyre Nichols.

America was shocked anew on Friday by a display of police violence caught on video, as Memphis released body camera and surveillance footage of police officers kicking and punching a 29-year-old Black man who later died. The man, Tyre Nichols, ran after being pepper sprayed by officers, but shows no signs of fighting back as the police beat him with a baton. “To me, that’s worse than Rodney King,” said Ed Obayashi, a police training expert and use-of-force expert, after watching the video.

Here are the details:

  • A New York Times analysis of the video footage found that police officers deployed an escalating spiral of physical force and gave conflicting orders, repeatedly demanding that Mr. Nichols show his hands, even as other officers held his arms behind his back while another punched him. After officers pepper sprayed and beat Mr. Nichols, they left him sitting on the ground unattended and handcuffed, and once the medics were on the scene, they stood by for more than 16 minutes without administering treatment.

  • Mr. Nichols, who was pulled out of his car by officers, can be heard saying, “I’m just trying to go home,” and at one point repeatedly screams, “Mom, Mom, Mom” as he is clubbed. Lawyers have said that his mother’s home was about 100 yards away from where he was beaten. Here is what we know about Mr. Nichols.
  • Five Memphis police officers accused of causing Mr. Nichols’s death — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired last week and charged on Thursday with murder and other crimes. The officers, who are all Black, posted bail on Friday and were released from jail. Here are the charges they face.

  • The sheriff of Shelby County, which includes Memphis, said that two of his deputies who were on the scene after the beating had been “relieved of duty” on Friday night, pending an investigation, after he watched the video. Earlier this week, the Memphis Fire Department said two of its employees had been relieved of duty pending an internal investigation.

The Times also created  A Timeline of Tyre Nichols’s Lethal Police Encounter. Read it at the link.

Also from The New York Times live update page, an analysis by experts on police violence: ‘The definition of excessive force’: Policing experts assess the beating of Tyre Nichols.

Experts in police training who reviewed videos released on Friday of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis said they believed there was no justification for the actions of the police officers involved, who have been charged with crimes including second-degree murder in his death….

“In my career, I’ve never seen — I mean, you see it in the movies — but I’ve never seen an individual deliberately being propped up to be beaten,” said Ed Obayashi, a police training expert and lawyer who conducts use-of-force investigations for state law enforcement across the country.

“To me, that’s worse than Rodney King,” added Mr. Obayashi, who is also a deputy sheriff and policy adviser in the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office in California.

In police training, it is emphasized repeatedly to officers that they need to be aware of their physical surroundings, Mr. Obayashi said, but the same stress should be placed on awareness of their own emotions. If officers’ tempers run high, he said, they are bound to make mistakes.

Young Woman with Cat - Wetlesen, Wilhelm 1908 Norwegian 1871-1925

Young Woman with Cat – Wetlesen, Wilhelm 1908 Norwegian 1871-1925

In the Nichols confrontation, it is possible the officers felt disrespected when their directions weren’t followed, he said.

“This appears to be a case of classic contempt of cop,” he said, “for them to catch up with him later and then exact their revenge on the poor individual.”

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization of current and former law enforcement officials that studies the improvement of policing, said the officers’ behavior also fell short in other ways….

The beating is “the definition of excessive force,” Mr. Wexler said. In his view, Mr. Nichols did not present a danger that matched the force the officers used, beyond appearing to not want to be arrested.

Even when Mr. Nichols was lying on the ground, none of the officers attempted to help him, which Mr. Wexler said was a violation of their duty to render aid.

“This person was not treated as a human being,” he said.

Who was Tyre Nichols? This is from the AP via ABC7 in Los Angeles: Tyre Nichols was NorCal native with ‘beautiful soul’ and creative eye. He was born in Sacramento and had a website dedicated to his photography.

On most weekends, Tyre Nichols would head to the city park, train his camera on the sky and wait for the sun to set.

“Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. It expresses me in ways I cannot write down for people,” he wrote on his website. He preferred landscapes and loved the glow of sunsets most, his family has said.

“My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens,” Nichols wrote. “People have a story to tell, why not capture it.”

Nichols, a 29-year-old father, was on his way home from taking pictures of the sky on Jan. 7, when police pulled him over. He was just a few minutes from the home he shared with his mother and stepfather, when he was brutally attacked by five Memphis police officers…

He was the baby of their family, born 12 years after his closest siblings. He had a 4-year-old son and worked hard to better himself as a father, his family said. He was an avid skateboarder from Sacramento, California, and came to Memphis just before the coronavirus pandemic and got stuck. But he was fine with it because he was with his mother, and they were incredibly close, Wells said. He had her name tattooed on his arm.

Friends at a memorial service this week described him as joyful and lovable.

“This man walked into a room, and everyone loved him,” said Angelina Paxton, a friend who traveled to Memphis from California for the service.

There’s more at that link about Nichols’ life in Sacramento. Here is Nichols’ photography website. Read more about Nichols:

CNN: Tyre Nichols was a son and father who enjoyed skateboarding, photography and sunsets, his family says.

The New York Times: From Sacramento to Memphis, Tyre Nichols Cut His Own Path.

Cupboard Love - Walter Frederick Osborne Quimperie Irish Impressionism

Cupboard Love – Walter Frederick Osborne Quimperie, Irish Impressionism

In other news, we are getting more information about the case of former top FBI agent Charles McGonigle, who has been charged with secretly taking money to help Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska evade sanctions and from an Albanian intelligence operative and former FBI informant.

It appears that McGonigle was turned in by former girlfriend. Here’s a Daily Beast summary of a long Insider article about it. The Daily Beast: Enraged Ex-Lover Tipped Off FBI to Top Official Accused of Helping Russia.

The angry ex-lover of the FBI’s former New York counterintelligence chief claims she tipped the feds off to some of his misdeeds before his arrest last week. Charles McGonigal, who was part of the FBI probe of the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, has been charged with money laundering, lying to the FBI, and taking money to help a sanctioned Russian oligarch, among others. In an interview with Insider, Allison Guerriero said she dated McGonigal for a year, unaware he was married. He spent far more lavishly than an FBI salary would typically allow, she recalled, and she once found a bag of cash in his apartment. But after their fling ended, he revealed he was married and had no plans to leave his wife. She said she was so angry that, after a bout of drinking, she emailed his boss to disclose the affair as well as extensive dealings she’d noticed McGonigal had in Albania. It’s unclear what came of the email but the feds turned up on her doorstep three years later to ask her about McGonigal and some of her allegations regarding Albania appeared in last week’s indictment.

Here’s the story at The Insider: Exclusive: Inside the extramarital affair and cash-fueled double life of Charles McGonigal, the FBI spy hunter charged with taking Russian money. Here’s the introductory section:

One morning in October 2017, Allison Guerriero noticed something unusual on the floor of her boyfriend’s Park Slope, Brooklyn, apartment: a bag full of cash. There it was, lying next to his shoes, near the futon, the kind of bag that liquor stores give out. Inside were bundles of bills, big denominations bound up with rubber bands. It didn’t seem like something he should be carrying around. After all, her boyfriend, Charles F. McGonigal, held one of the most senior and sensitive positions in the FBI.

“Where the fuck is this from?” she asked.

“Oh, you remember that baseball game?” McGonigal replied, according to Guerriero’s recollection. “I made a bet and won.”

McGonigal had two high-school-age children and a wife — or “ex-wife” as he sometimes referred to her — back at home in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He would return there once or twice a month. But McGonigal had led Guerriero to believe that he was either divorced or soon would be. She didn’t question his story, nor did she question the story about the bag full of cash.

A few days before, Guerriero had sat on the couch with McGonigal in the one-room garden sublet to watch McGonigal’s Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees. Much later — after Guerriero’s cancer diagnosis, their breakup, and McGonigal’s retirement from the FBI — McGonigal would be indicted on suspicion of, among other things, accepting $225,000 in cash from a former employee of Albania’s intelligence agency. That total includes one $80,000 chunk that was allegedly handed over in a parked car, outside a restaurant, on October 5, 2017. October 5 and 6 also happened to be the days when the Indians beat the Yankees in the first two games of the American League Division Series. Today, Guerriero no longer believes the bag of cash contained winnings from a sports bet.

Read the rest at the Insider link.

This is a scoop from Josh Kovensky at Talking Points Memo: Albanian Firm Ties Indicted Former FBI Official To Yet Another Disgraced Former Agent.

Indicted former top FBI official Charles McGonigal is a partner in an Albanian firm along with another disgraced former FBI agent, records obtained by TPM show.

An Albanian corporate filing ties McGonigal to Mark Rossini, a flamboyant figure who left the FBI amid scandalous 2008 charges and who currently faces separate bribery-related charges in an August 2022 federal indictment in Puerto Rico.

By Simon Davis

By Simon Davis

The previously unreported business connection links McGonigal to another former agent with a similar profile: a high-flier at the bureau with experience in counterterrorism and counterintelligence, and one who appears to have engaged in business with an eyebrow-raising array of foreign clients after leaving federal law enforcement.

The nature of the Albanian company — called Lawoffice & Investigation — remains unclear. Why and how McGonigal apparently got involved with the firm, and how he may have met Rossini, are also unknown.

Albanian journalists have published a series of articles since September 2022 highlighting McGonigal’s presence at the company, which they tie to the country’s oil industry.

Prosecutors accused McGonigal this week in separate federal indictments in D.C. and Manhattan of concealing cash he received from a former Albanian intelligence employee totaling $225,000, and of evading sanctions for work he performed for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a paymaster of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

But the Albanian corporate document connects McGonigal to the murky world that led Rossini to not just one, but two run-ins with federal law enforcement. Federal prosecutors charged Rossini in August 2022 over his alleged involvement in a bribery scheme involving the former governor of Puerto Rico. That came 14 years after Rossini’s first scandal, which involved actress Linda Fiorentino and notorious Hollywood fixer Anthony Pellicano, and quickly became tabloid fodder.

“It just violates the basic precepts of why you sign up to take these kinds of jobs, or your focus on the mission and serving the U.S. government and the American public,” Javed Ali, a retired FBI senior analyst and former senior counterterrorism director at the National Security Council, told TPM of the allegations. “These are the kind of things that, at a really idealistic level, should be motivating you to do the work. … But what we’re seeing is one of the worst case examples of someone abusing their position and trying to leverage it for a different purpose.”

More at the linnk.

And of course there is news about scam artist and Republican Congressman George Santos, if that is in fact his name. Here’s the latest:

Noah Lanard and David Corn at Mother Jones: We Tried to Call the Top Donors To George Santos’ 2020 Campaign. Many Don’t Seem To Exist.

In September 2020, George Santos’ congressional campaign reported that Victoria and Jonathan Regor had each contributed $2,800—the maximum amount—to his first bid for a House seat. Their listed address was 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson Township, New Jersey.

A search of various databases reveals no one in the United States named Victoria or Jonathan Regor. Moreover, there is nobody by any name living at 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson. That address doesn’t exist. There is a New Mexico Street in Jackson, but the numbers end in the 20s, according to Google Maps and a resident of the street.

Santos’ 2020 campaign finance reports also list a donor named Stephen Berger as a $2,500 donor and said he was a retiree who lived on Brandt Road in Brawley, California. But a spokesperson for William Brandt, a prominent rancher and Republican donor, tells Mother Jones that Brandt has lived at that address for at least 20 years and “neither he or his wife (the only other occupant [at the Brandt Road home]) have made any donations to George Santos. He does not know Stephen Berger nor has Stephen Berger ever lived at…Brandt Road.”

By Isabel Crooke

By Isabel Crooke

The Regor and Berger contributions are among more than a dozen major donations to the 2020 Santos campaign for which the name or the address of the donor cannot be confirmed, a Mother Jones investigation found. A separate $2,800 donation was attributed in Santos’ reports filed with the Federal Election Commission to a friend of Santos who says he did not give the money.

Under federal campaign finance law, it is illegal to donate money using a false name or the name of someone else. “It’s called a contribution in the name of another,” says Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “It’s something that is explicitly prohibited under federal law.”

These questionable donations, which account for more than $30,000 of the $338,000 the Santos campaign raised from individual donors in 2020, have not been previously cited in media reports. Mother Jones identified them by contacting (or trying to contact) dozens of the most generous donors to Santos’ 2020 campaign, which he ended up losing by 12 points.

There’s much more at the Mother Jones link.

It looks like Santos may be facing a criminal investigation by the DOJ. The Washington Post: Justice Department asks FEC to stand down as prosecutors probe Santos.

The Justice Department has asked the Federal Election Commission to hold off on any enforcement action against George Santos, the Republican congressman from New York who lied about key aspects of his biography, as prosecutors conduct a parallel criminal probe, according to two people familiar with the request.

The request, which came from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, is the clearest sign to date that federal prosecutors are examining Santos’s campaign finances.

The request also asked that the FEC provide any relevant documents to the Justice Department, according to the knowledgeable people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. An FEC spokeswoman said the regulator “cannot comment on enforcement.” Neither Santos nor his attorney responded to requests for comment….

Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday interviewed two people about Santos’s role in Harbor City Capital, an investment firm that was forced to shut down in 2021 after the SEC accused it of operating a “classic Ponzi scheme.” SEC interest in those people came after they were quoted Wednesday in The Washington Post describing how Santos solicited an investment in Harbor City at an Italian restaurant in Queens in late 2020….

“Basically they don’t want two sets of investigators tripping over each other,” said David M. Mason, a former FEC commissioner. “And they don’t want anything that the FEC, which is a civil agency, does to potentially complicate their criminal case.”

The request “indicates there’s an active criminal investigation” examining issues that overlap with complaints against Santos before the FEC, said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at D.C.-based Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories have captured your interest?


Tuesday Reads: GOP Clown Show

Clowns, by Philippe Jacquot,

Clowns, by Philippe Jacquot

Good Afternoon!!

The GOP clown show has begun. Last night House Republicans voted to gut the House ethics committee as part of a rules package agreed to by Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Also in the rules package, they approved a new subcommittee under the Judiciary Committee headed by Rep. Jim Jordan that will supposedly investigate the “weaponization” of the federal government. In the first bill taken up by the new House, they voted to eliminate funding for new IRS agents that was included in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: House Republicans move to defang ethics office investigating its members.

House Republicans moved to pre-emptively kill any investigations against its members as it curtailed the power of an independent ethics office just as it was weighing whether to open inquiries into lawmakers who defied subpoenas issued by the House January 6 select committee last year.

The incoming Republican majority also paved the way for a new special subcommittee with a wide mandate to investigate the US justice department and intelligence agencies, which could include reviewing the criminal investigations into Donald Trump and a Republican congressman caught up in the Capitol attack inquiry.

The measures took effect as House Republicans narrowly passed the new rules package that included the changes for the next Congress, 220-213, setting the stage for politically charged fights with the Biden administration over access to classified materials and details of criminal investigations.

Seeking to protect itself, the rules package first undercut the ability of the office of congressional ethics (OCE) to function, with changes that struck at its principal vulnerabilities to defang its investigative powers for at least the next two years, according to sources familiar with its operation.

The changes to the OCE are twofold: reintroducing term limits for members of the bipartisan board, which would force out three of four Democratic-appointed members, and restricting its ability to hire professional staff to the first 30 days of the new congressional session.

The issue with the changes, the Guardian previously reported, is that the OCE requires board approval to open new investigations, while new hires are typically approved by the board. The term limits would mean Democrats need to find new board members, which can take months – far longer than the 30-day hiring period.

In essence, the changes mean that by the time the OCE has a board, it may have run out of time to hire staff, leaving it with one counsel to do possible investigations into the new House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, and other Republican lawmakers who defied January 6 select committee subpoenas.

Politico’s Kyle Cheney on the planned “weaponization” subcommittee: Mutually assured obstruction: House GOP aims ‘weaponization’ panel at DOJ.

House Republicans are declaring what amounts to an investigative war on the Biden administration, pledging to probe “ongoing criminal investigations” at the Justice Department.

Veterans of some of Congress’ recent major probes, and the department itself, predict that they’ll be told to pound sand.

Evil Clown vs Smiley, by Herr Karl

Evil Clown vs Smiley, by Herr Karl

 

GOP lawmakers are dramatically escalating their standoff with the administration by launching a wide-ranging investigative panel to probe what they call the “weaponization of government.” It’s a broad mandate that will allow the party to look into any government agency or program that it views as suspect, including the FBI, IRS and the intelligence community — making good on a key demand of a band of hardline conservatives who opposed Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s bid for the gavel.

And it’s an opening salvo that promises to escalate quickly. The Justice Department is certain to fiercely protect its most sensitive investigative files and prosecutors are simply not going to hand over information on open criminal probes, legal experts say. The resulting conflict promises to erode the already strained relationship between DOJ and congressional Republicans.

“This will be a separation of powers hornets’ nest,” said former House General Counsel Stan Brand, who represented witnesses before the Jan. 6 select committee, including Dan Scavino, a top adviser to former President Donald Trump. “In order to insulate the process from taint, [DOJ] will have to draw clearer ‘lines in the sand’ over what they will provide.”

The genesis of the proposed select panel — which would operate underneath the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — has exacerbated concerns among DOJ allies about how GOP lawmakers will use their broad directive.

Notably, those seeking to access ongoing criminal matters are among the staunchest political allies of the former president whose efforts to overturn the 2020 election are the subject of a special counsel investigation. Several GOP members of Congress — including House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Va.) — allied closely with Trump, prompting the department to scrutinize their actions.

Perry declined to rule out serving on the panel in an ABC interview on Sunday, asking: “Why should anybody be limited just because someone has made an accusation? Everybody in America is innocent until proven otherwise.”

Both Perry and Jordan were subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 select committee to testify about events surrounding the Capitol attack by a mob of the former president’s supporters. Both declined to comply with the subpoena.

Though GOP leaders have not yet announced any members of the new investigative panel, McCarthy has indicated to House Republicans that he anticipates Jordan will lead it. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), who pushed for the investigative body for months, is viewed as a likely member. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has also said publicly he expects to participate.

There’s much more on the plans for the new subcommittee at the link. I can’t imagine these bozos will pry anything from the DOJ. There’s obviously a serious separation of powers issue there.

Republicans in the House also plan to “investigate” the origins of the Covid pandemic. The Washington Post: House GOP to embark on sweeping probe of covid origin, U.S. response.

House Republicans on Monday commissioned a special investigative panel focused on the coronavirus pandemic, hoping to leverage their new, powerful majority to press scientists and federal officials about the origin of the public health crisis and the government’s response to it.

Lovely Clown, by Leonid Afrenov

Lovely Clown, by Leonid Afrenov

Party lawmakers officially chartered the new effort in a sprawling package setting the chamber’s rules for the next two years, awarding it a sweeping mandate — from looking into vaccine development, school closures and other mitigation measures to examining the roughly $5 trillion in emergency federal aid approved since early 2020.

Republicans have long derided Democrats, public health experts and others who advocated for an aggressive government response to covid-19, which has claimed millions of lives globally. At the center of GOP criticism is the suspicion that the coronavirus originated out of laboratory experiments in Wuhan, China, potentially backed by U.S. money — a view at odds with peer-reviewed scientific papers pointing to a more likely origin in a Wuhan market.

In the process, Republican lawmakers also have clashed with scientists and doctors on a wide array of policies meant to arrest the spread of the virus — opposing vaccine mandates, blasting in-person capacity limits and rejecting new federal funding for tests, treatments and other tools.

With new control of the House, however, the GOP aims to surface those concerns in a more prominent setting, questioning a wide array of current and former government officials, potentially including Anthony S. Fauci, the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The panel, officially named as the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, essentially replaces a Democrat-led legislative body that had focused its work on monitoring emergency coronavirus aid for fraud. Under Republicans, it does not yet have a leader, but it is expected to hold its first hearing in February.

Sigh . . .

You can read more about the McCarthy rules package at The New York Times: New House Rules Make It Easier to Dump Speaker, and Harder to Spend or Raise Taxes.

According to Andrew Solender at Axios, there’s another secret addendum to the rules package: House Republicans in the dark on McCarthy’s shadow document.

A private document that only some House Republicans have seen and others refuse to talk about could play an outsized role in the governance of the chamber over the next two years.

Why it matters: The document contains concessions — not included in the rules package passed on Monday night — that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made to rebellious Freedom Caucus members to secure the speaker’s gavel.

 — Those members have threatened to kill McCarthy’s speakership as swiftly as they acquiesced to it if he reneges on their handshake agreements.

Driving the news: The existence of a “secret three-page addendum” containing “the most controversial concessions” that McCarthy made in order to get elected was first reported by Punchbowl News on Monday and confirmed to Axios by multiple GOP aides and members.

  — One of those concessions is three seats set aside for conservatives on the Rules Committee, as well as representation for them on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

  — Other McCarthy giveaways include votes on congressional term limits and a select committee on the weaponization of the federal government, a debt limit strategy and a more open amendment process on appropriations bills.

  — One thing the document doesn’t contain, according to NRCC Chair Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), who said he’s seen it, is promised committee chairmanships for specific members: “No names, just representation [on panels].”

Read the rest at Axios.

Ben Werschkul at Yahoo Business on the IRS defunding bill: Here’s why the House GOP made defunding the IRS its first priority.

The House GOP’s first policy bill out of the gate didn’t address inflation or gas prices or immigration, but instead went after the Internal Revenue Service.

Dark Clown, by

Dark Clown, by BERTOLINO Florent

The bill was passed Monday evening on a straight party line vote of 221 to 210 to reverse much of the $80 billion in extra funding set aside for the agency by 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act. need of reform.” [….]

The claim from countless Republicans, from Speaker McCarthy on down, is that the influx of money will lead to a flood of 87,000 new IRS agents who will then turn and harass everyday Americans. Some critics of the agency go even further and claim these new agents will be armed.

But fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked the claims, and the agency itself pushed back in a Yahoo Finance op-ed from then-IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in August.

The viral claims are “absolutely false,” Rettig wrote at the time, adding his agency “is often perceived as an easy target for mischaracterizations,” but he promised the new money will not lead to increased audit scrutiny on households making under $400,000.

The plan is instead for much of the money to go toward wealthy tax cheats. IRS estimates of the so-called “tax gap” — the difference between what taxes are owed to the government and what is actually paid — is hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Much of the $80 billion will be focused on taking a bite out of the gap, focusing on wealthy tax payers. The investment is projected to pay for itself and then bring in over $100 billion in increased tax revenue over the coming decade.

By contrast, a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released Monday afternoon found that the net effect of the House GOP bill’s to defund the agency would increase the deficit by more than $114.3 billion over the coming decade if enacted.

Fortunately, this bill will most likely die in the Senate, and if it somehow gets to Biden’s desk, he will veto it.

In other news, Republicans are gleeful, because a small number of classified documents were found while lawyers were cleaning out an office used by Joe Biden before he became president. The lawyers immediately contacted the National Archives and turned over the documents, and the DOJ is now looking into what happened. There’s no comparison between this and Donald Trump’s stealing of hundreds of classified documents and refusing to return them, but Republicans will have a field day anyway. One hopes the press will recognize the differences.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The Trump and Biden classified-document revelations are not the same.

After serving as Barack Obama’s vice president for eight years, Joe Biden did what high-profile former politicians so often do: He set up a think tank at a prominent university.

Biden’s was called the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, headquartered at the University of Pennsylvania. But unlike other elected officials and other such institutions, Biden’s engagement with the Penn Biden Center was soon back-burnered. By April 2019, he was a candidate for the presidency.

In November, almost exactly two years after Biden’s election, attorneys for the president were emptying an office at the center when, according to their account, they discovered about 10 documents bearing classification markings. The next day, the documents were turned over to the National Archives. The Justice Department is now reviewing them.

In its most concise distillation — documents with classification markings found in president’s office — the scenario seems like a mirror of the controversy that swirled around Donald Trump for much of last year, including the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago property. Trump and his allies have, predictably, tried to draw this comparison, looping in funding that Penn (broadly; not the Biden center) has received from China.

365-days-with-this-clown-ylli-haruni

355 days with this clown, by Ylli Haru

“When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump fumed on the social media platform he owns. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”

But, just as the fundamental issue with the Trump documents is not whether they were classified, the situations with the two presidents are not obviously comparable in the way that Trump suggests.

At this point, we don’t know much about the Biden documents beyond what his team has made public, which is certainly an important caveat. According to the Biden team’s statement, the documents were found in a locked closet and quickly turned over to the government. What they contain is unclear, as is their current classification level or status. (There are, of course, numerous existing documents that are no longer classified but which may nonetheless still carry classification markings.) One person, tongue presumably in cheek, told CBS News that the documents did not contain nuclear secrets.

Obvious differences are that Biden didn’t take the documents deliberately and his attorney turned them over to the National Archives as soon as they discovered them. Read the rest at the WaPo.

Meanwhile, the DOJ is still attempting to get Trump to return any documents that he still possesses. Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: DoJ seeks to question Trump team that found more classified documents.

The US justice department is intensifying its investigation of Donald Trump’s unauthorized retention of national security materials as it prepares to question the people who searched the former president’s properties at the end of last year and found more documents with classified markings.

The department was given a general explanation from Trump’s lawyers at the time about who conducted the search – a company said to be known to Trump with experience handling classified records cases – when the new documents marked as classified were returned to the government around Thanksgiving last year.

But the department, unsatisfied with that accounting, last week convinced a federal judge in a sealed hearing to force Trump’s lawyers to give the names of the people who retrieved the documents with an intent to question them directly, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The move by prosecutors to ask a federal judge to compel the information marks the latest escalating twist in the criminal investigation into Trump’s potential unauthorized retention of highly sensitive government documents as well as obstruction of justice.

The pattern of prosecutors now seeking judicial intervention at every turn signals an aggressive posture from the special counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing the investigation after being appointed to insulate the department from accusations of political conflicts with Trump, who is now a 2024 presidential candidate.

The justice department told Trump’s legal team in October that it suspected the former president was still in possession of additional documents with classified markings even after the FBI seized hundreds of sensitive materials when agents searched his Mar-a-Lago property on 8 August.

After initially resisting suggestions to retain an outside firm to search his properties for any classified documents, Trump retained people to search his other properties including Trump Tower in New York, Trump Bedminster golf club in New Jersey, Mar-a-Lago, and a storage unit in Florida.

The search, carried out by a company described as being a known entity to the former president, turned up at the storage unit at least two more documents with classified markings that Trump’s lawyers then hurriedly turned over to prosecutors on the documents case.

That’s it for me today. What else is happening? What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads: A Reckoning is Coming for Trump

Good Afternoon!!

It’s really happening, folks. Last night we got another sign that Merrick Garland’s DOJ is likely to indict Donald Trump. The news broke around 9PM Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal that Trump insider Kash Patel has been given limited use immunity and will now have to testify to the grand jury in the stolen documents case. This means he won’t be prosecuted for anything he testifies to truthfully, but he can be prosecuted if he lies.

Lawrence Tribe predicted this last month when The New York Times published a story about the DOJ trying to get testimony from Patel and another Trump aide Walt Nauta, who was involved in moving boxes of documents out of the storage area at Mar-a-Lago.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal article from last night: Trump Aide, Granted Immunity, Set to Testify at Grand Jury Probing Mar-a-Lago Documents.

Kash Patel, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, is set to soon testify before a federal grand jury probing the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after receiving immunity for his information, people familiar with the matter said.

A federal judge recently decided the Justice Department couldn’t force Mr. Patel to testify without such protection against his statements being used against him in some future prosecution. That ruling, the people said, opens the door for Mr. Patel, who says Mr. Trump broadly declassified White House documents while still president, to answer questions.

Mr. Patel appeared before the grand jury last month and refused to provide information by repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, The Wall Street Journal reported.

H9-kash-patel

Kash Patel

In response, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to compel him to testify. Prosecutors argued Mr. Patel had no reasonable expectation that he would be prosecuted based on the kinds of questions they were asking, one of the people said, an argument the judge didn’t accept.

The immunity grant leaves the government only able to charge Mr. Patel, if at all, using information obtained independently of his immunized testimony.

That’s because Patel is just a small fish, and the DOJ is going after a much bigger fish–Trump himself.

Other Trump associates involved in the Mar-a-Lago documents matter also have been offered some form of immunity, people familiar with the matter said, including one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Christina Bobb, who declined, saying she didn’t need it.

Mr. Patel, a former White House and Pentagon aide whom Mr. Trump late in his term considered naming to top positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI, has asserted publicly since May that Mr. Trump broadly declassified documents when he left the White House in January 2021. His comments first came as the Justice Department’s efforts to retrieve the documents from Mar-a-Lago were intensifying and the same month prosecutors issued a grand jury subpoena for their return.

Prosecutors asked Mr. Patel about that claim and an array of other topics, including some that had nothing to do with Mr. Trump or the material discovered at Mar-a-Lago, one of the people said.

Investigators have spoken to a number of other people, including close aides to the former president, since the probe began.

I didn’t encounter a paywall when I opened this WSJ story from a link on Memeorandum.

This is from a New York Times article on this new development:

The disclosure that Mr. Patel has received immunity for his testimony comes as prosecutors have increased their pressure on recalcitrant witnesses who have declined to answer investigators’ questions or have provided them with potentially misleading accounts about Mr. Trump’s handling of documents.

Prosecutors have indicated they are skeptical of the level of cooperation they have gotten from a little-known Trump aide named Walt Nauta, who has provided the authorities with different accounts about whether he moved documents stored at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The authorities are using the specter of charges against him for misleading investigators to persuade him to sit again for questioning.

The prosecutors want to question Mr. Patel about an array of matters related to the documents. Among them is an unsubstantiated claim Mr. Patel has publicly made in recent months that Mr. Trump had declassified national security documents he took when he left the White House….

Mr. Patel has long been a part of efforts to fight off the Justice Department investigations into Mr. Trump and his allies. Earlier this year, as officials were pushing Mr. Trump to return records he had taken to Mar-a-Lago when he left office, Mr. Trump made him one of his representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration to deal with his records.

Legal experts say prosecutors try to avoid giving witnesses immunity, especially in high-profile cases, because it makes it much more difficult to prosecute the individual who received it. But prosecutors often ask a judge to grant it when they are confronted with a witness who has information that they believe is essential to completing the investigation….

Mr. Patel has increased his influence with Mr. Trump since the end of the presidency, maintaining his criticisms of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 campaign.

Earlier this year, Mr. Patel told associates that he was expected to take on an even more central role in Mr. Trump’s legal defenses, currently coordinated by another Trump adviser, Boris Epshteyn, according to a person familiar with his comments.

There’s also big news on the investigation of Trump’s involvement in the investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Yesterday Politico obtained the 8 emails that Trump attorney John Eastman has been fighting to keep from the January 6 Committee and they are damning.

From the Politico article: Trump lawyers saw Justice Thomas as ‘only chance’ to stop 2020 election certification.

Donald Trump’s attorneys saw a direct appeal to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as their best hope of derailing Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election, according to emails newly disclosed to congressional investigators.

“We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt,” Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote in a Dec. 31, 2020, email to Trump’s legal team. Chesebro contended that Thomas would be “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress.”

“I think I agree with this,” attorney John Eastman replied later that morning, suggesting that a favorable move by Thomas or other justices would “kick the Georgia legislature into gear” to help overturn the election results.

Trump lawyer Kevin Chesebro

Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro

The messages were part of a batch of eight emails — obtained by POLITICO — that Eastman had sought to withhold from the Jan. 6 select committee but that a judge ordered turned over anyway, describing them as evidence of likely crimes committed by Eastman and Trump. They were transmitted to the select committee by Eastman’s attorneys last week, but remained largely under wraps until early Wednesday morning….

Thomas is the justice assigned to handle emergency matters arising out of Georgia and would have been the one to receive any urgent appeal of Trump’s lawsuit to the Supreme Court — a fact that seemed to be part of the Trump legal team’s calculus.

Rulings from so-called circuit justices are typically stopgap measures aimed at preserving the status quo until the full Supreme Court weighs in, but the Trump lawyers hoped a favorable order from Thomas would embolden state GOP-controlled legislatures, Congress — or then-Vice President Mike Pence — to block final certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

“[I]f we can just get this case pending before the Supreme Court by Jan. 5, ideally with something positive written by a judge or justice, hopefully Thomas, I think it’s our best shot at holding up the count of a state in Congress,” Chesebro said.

There’s even more crazy stuff from Chesebro:

In one scenario, Chesebro proposed encouraging Senate Republicans to filibuster long enough to delay the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, ignoring limitations on the length of debate. He also described how Trump allies could use inaction by the courts to build political pressure against Biden’s inauguration.

“Hard to have enormous optimism about what will happen on Jan. 6, but a lot can happen in the 13 days left until then, and I think having as many states still under review (both judicially and in state legislatures) as possible is ideal,” Chesebro wrote Trump campaign attorney Justin Clark on Dec. 24, 2020. It’s unclear how or whether Clark responded to Chesebro’s message.

The New York-based lawyer has been scrutinized by the Jan. 6 select committee, as well as prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., who are investigating Trump’s efforts to subvert the election there.

Read more and see the emails at Politico.

There’s a very interesting piece at New York Magazine today by Ankush Khardori: The Secret Court Battle That Threatens Trump After Election Day. Prosecutors are obtaining potentially crucial testimony about January 6.

https://twitter.com/NYMag/status/1588143351253159936?s=20&t=0jL5j6PFFd0McENHeAYidw

As the midterm campaigns draw to a close, so too may an informal détente between Donald Trump and federal prosecutors since the search of Mar-a-Lago in August. While both sides fight in court, the Justice Department has probably refrained from taking major steps in the key investigations into his possession of classified documents and the attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to avoid influencing the elections.

During this relative down period, however, the department has reportedly been fighting an opaque and largely secret legal battle in the January 6 investigation that could constitute its most significant development to date. It could open a floodgate of damaging information about Trump or provide the department with crucial clarity about his conduct with respect to the riot and the effort to overturn the election results beyond what the public has learned so far. Like the search at Mar-a-Lago, this reflects an apparent change in posture at the Justice Department in recent months under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who chose not to focus on Trump’s potential criminal misconduct when he took office last year despite ample reason to do so.

And thus far, the Justice Department appears to be winning.

In recent weeks, according to a variety of news reports, prosecutors successfully compelled grand-jury testimony in Washington, D.C., from two key witnesses over the objections of Trump — Greg Jacob, a onetime lawyer for former vice-president Mike Pence who blamed the shoddy legal arguments advanced by Trump lawyer John Eastman for the outrageous violence at the Capitol, and Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff. The proceedings are under seal for the moment, but they are being handled at the district-court level by Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who has so far rejected Trump’s legal challenges. In at least Short’s case, Trump’s lawyers reportedly sought an expedited appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rebuffed them. The Justice Department is now reportedly seeking a similar ruling from Howell that would force testimony — again over Trump’s objections — from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin.

All of the court disputes appear to center on Trump’s effort to invoke executive privilege to block top officials in his White House from providing testimony that might incriminate him. As CNN noted, the recent testimony from Jacob was “the first identifiable time when the confidentiality Trump had tried to maintain around the West Wing after the 2020 election has been pierced in the criminal probe following a court battle.” The fight is not over: There is apparently still a pending appeal at the D.C. Circuit and likely more litigation before Howell as things continue to play out and additional witnesses are called in, and at some point, Trump could seek the involvement of the Supreme Court to try to bail him out.

At first blush, this may seem like a fight among lawyers with esoteric stakes concerning the scope of executive privilege, but there are significant consequences if the Justice Department successfully continues down this path. Prosecutors could obtain fulsome information about what Trump himself (as opposed to the people around him) was actually saying and doing in the run-up to and during the January 6 siege.

Read the rest at the link. The gist is that prosecutors are moving closer to actually holding Trump accountable.

More interesting stories to check out, links only:

The Washington Post: Biden warns GOP could set nation on ‘path to chaos’ as democratic system faces strain.

The Washington Post: Oath Keeper Rhodes had violent message for Trump after Jan. 6, witness says.

Reuters: U.S. Capitol Police to conduct internal review over missed camera images of Pelosi attack.

Will Oremus at The Washington Post: Musk’s Trump-style management rattles Twitter workers awaiting layoffs.

Insider: Elon Musk’s Twitter has identified thousands of employees who will be laid off, representing about 50% of the company’s workforce.

The Guardian: Twitter exodus: company faces murky future as top managers flee the nest.

Please share your thoughts on these stories and anything else you’re interested in and have a great Thursday!


Lazy Caturday Reads

Cats by a fishbowl, Horatio Henry Couldery

Cats by a fishbowl, Horatio Henry Couldery

Happy Caturday!!

Late last night the Department of Justice appealed Judge Loose Cannon’s ruling in the battle over the classified documents that Trump stole on his way out of the White House.

Ryan J. Reilly at NBC News: Justice Department asks appeals court to block Trump judge’s Mar-a-Lago ruling.

The Department of Justice is asking a federal appeals court to temporarily block a Trump-appointed judge’s ruling that prevents it from accessing hundreds of pages of classified records seized amid the thousands of pages of government documents taken from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home.

“The district court has entered an unprecedented order enjoining the Executive Branch’s use of its own highly classified records in a criminal investigation with direct implications for national security,” the Justice Department wrote in its motion Friday.

The Justice Department hadpreviously argued that any delay in its investigation into Donald Trump’s handling and retention of government records, including classified records, could result in “irreparable harm” to the government and the public….

The Justice Department on Friday argued that any considerations of claims for return of property or attorney-client and executive privilege were “categorically inapplicable to the records bearing classification markings.”

“Plaintiff has no claim for the return of those records, which belong to the government and were seized in a court-authorized search,” the Justice Department wrote.

Although Trump previously suggested he had declassified or designated documents seized from his home as “personal,” the Justice Department said he “has never represented that he in fact took either of those steps — much less supported such a representation with competent evidence. The court erred in granting extraordinary relief based on unsubstantiated possibilities.”

The Justice Department also argued that its request for a limited stay wouldn’t disrupt the special master’s review of other materials and “irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to Plaintiff’s counsel.”

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

More from Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico: Justice Dept. asks appeals court to restore access to Trump raid documents.

In a filing with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Friday night, prosecutors said the government is facing irreparable harm as a result of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling putting the potentially classified records off-limits to the investigative team until an outside expert conducts a review of them and considers Trump’s objections to their seizure.

“The court’s order hamstrings that investigation and places the FBI and Department of Justice … under a Damoclean threat of contempt,” DOJ lawyers said in their 29-page filing, adding, “It also irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to [Trump’s] counsel.”

The Justice Department’s widely expected escalation of the legal fight came one day after the Trump-appointed judge rebuffed prosecutors’ request for a stay that would essentially carve out the national security-related records — some bearing markings such as “Top Secret/SCI” — from the outside oversight Trump’s legal team requested.

The filing was an unsparing rejection of Cannon’s handling of the entire matter, saying it has jeopardized national security, is based on flimsy or baseless interpretations of executive privilege and could enable further obstruction of efforts to recover additional missing documents.

“The government’s need to proceed apace is heightened where, as here, it has reason to believe that obstructive acts may impede its investigation,” prosecutors wrote….

The inability of federal prosecutors to advance their criminal probe has complicated separate efforts by the intelligence community to assess the harm that may have been caused by their improper storage in Trump’s unsecured storage room, prosecutors say, contending that the criminal investigation is inextricably tied to the national security review.

And prosecutors suggested that the restrictions on the FBI’s criminal work would prevent investigators from determining what may have once resided in dozens of empty folders, also bearing classification marks, found among Trump’s belongings.

“The injunction also appears to bar the FBI and DOJ from further reviewing the records to discern any patterns in the types of records that were retained, which could lead to identification of other records still missing,” prosecutors indicated in the filing.

This is from a column by Harry Litman at The Los Angeles Times: The Mar-a-Lago judge’s latest opinion is as atrocious as legal experts say it is.

The opinion’s essential flaws go well beyond straining the law and stretching facts in favor of Donald Trump. The ruling rests on the most basic dereliction of judicial responsibility, and it represents a complete departure from the bedrock principle of separation of powers.

Cannon was actually handed a graceful way back from her also broadly pilloried opinion last week, in which she had determined that a special master was required to review the government documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.

The Justice Department asked for a modest stay extending to only 100 pages of classified material found at the beach resort. It is beyond controversy that such documents are off-limits to a private citizen like the former president.

e1c83a9f137b9fef45da615c829c3917Trump’s lawyers did not try to contest that principle. Rather they argued, bizarrely, that just because the government said the documents were classified, it wasn’t necessarily so.

That, of course, is spectacular gibberish. The very meaning of classified documents is that the executive branch has made a determination about their content and marked them classified.

But Cannon adopted Trump’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach. She concluded that it would not be “appropriate” — the closest thing to legal reasoning in her opinion — “to accept the government’s conclusion on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third-party,” that is, a special master.

Cannon, in essence, is redefining the classification process to be simply a provisional executive branch judgment subject to overruling by individual judges such as herself. Apart from its legal bankruptcy, such a process would wreak bedlam in matters of national intelligence, which turn on the very designations that Cannon set aside.

More crazy from Judge Loose Cannon:

The Trump team’s next gambit, which the judge also adopted, was even more logically and legally threadbare. The former president has argued repeatedly in public that he declassified the documents. But his attorneys have studiously avoided saying that in court papers, where lies are subject to professional and criminal penalties. The Trump filings indicate only that he perhaps had declassified the documents.

The appropriate response for a judge in these circumstances is to put Trump on the stand and ask him, “Did you or didn’t you?” Failing that, “perhaps” means the matter is not established and the argument loses.

But Cannon either does not know or does not care what judges do in such a situation. It is important to emphasize that she isn’t simply leaning in Trump’s direction, she’s falling all over him.

Judges sit to resolve disputes, on the basis of evidence. Trump’s team offered none for his positions, relying instead on only the most speculative arguments. It is elementary to the adversary system of justice that evidence and the law, not speculation, determine outcomes. Nothing in the Trump team’s filings justifies freezing a criminal justice investigation and national intelligence review in their tracks.

The DOJ has appealed and now we’ll have to wait and see what the 11th Circuit judges have to say.

There were a couple of new revelations yesterday about people close to Trump and the stolen government documents.

The Washington Post: Trump team claimed boxes at Mar-a-Lago were only news clippings.

Months before National Archives officials retrieved hundreds of classified documents in 15 boxes from former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, they were told that none of the material was sensitive or classified and that Trump had only 12 boxes of “news clippings,” according to people familiar with the conversations between Trump’s team and the Archives.

playing-cats-henriette-ronner-knip

Playing Cats, by Henriette Ronner-Knip

During a September 2021 phone call with top Archives lawyer Gary Stern, former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin offered reassuring news: Philbin said he had talked to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who made the assertion about the dozen boxes of clippings, the people familiar with the call said. Trump’s team was aware of no other materials, Philbin said, relaying information he said he got from Meadows.

The characterization made in the call vastly misrepresented the scale and variety of documents, including classified records, eventually recovered by the Archives or the FBI.

Philbin said that Meadows also told him no documents had been destroyed, according to two people with knowledge of the call and a third person with knowledge of Stern’s contemporaneous account of the call. These and other people spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal details.

Stern had sought the call because he believed there were still more than two dozen boxes of materials that Trump had, and he also had concerns about whether digital records had been properly retained, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Top Archives officials continued to believe there was more material than they were being told about, according to people familiar with their thinking.

So either Philbin and/or Meadows is lying or they were lied to by Donald Trump. A spokesman for Meadows suggested it was Trump who lied.

“Mr. Meadows did not personally review the boxes at Mar A Lago and did not have a role in examining or verifying what was or wasn’t contained within them,” Ben Williamson, a spokesman for Meadows, said in a statement Friday night after the article was published online.

The New York Times confirmed the WaPo story and added more detail: Lawyer Told Archives Last Year That Trump Had No Classified Material.

The Washington Post first reported on Friday that Mr. Philbin had told the archives that there were no sensitive or classified materials in the boxes.

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Cat in the Summer Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Mr. Trump had told advisers a version of what Mr. Meadows is said to have told Mr. Philbin, that the boxes contained news clippings and personal effects, according to people familiar with the events. Aides to Mr. Trump had told others that there were only 12 boxes of material, which is what Mr. Meadows is also said to have relayed to Mr. Philbin.

Mr. Meadows went to Mar-a-Lago and discussed the boxes of material with Mr. Trump during the summer of 2021, as archives officials were trying to get the materials sent to them. Mr. Philbin was trying to facilitate the return while avoiding being drawn further into the dispute, according to two people familiar with the events.

In a statement, Ben Williamson, a spokesman for Mr. Meadows, said, “Mr. Meadows did not personally review the boxes at Mar-a-Lago and did not have a role in examining or verifying what was or wasn’t contained within them.”

At The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus has a column on Jeffrey Clark, the DOJ employee whom Trump wanted to appoint as acting Attorney General in the wake of the 2020 election: The curious case of the strange man who was nearly attorney general.

The threat of losing his law license might be the least of Jeffrey Bossert Clark’s problems. Clark is the environmental lawyer who came just one contentious Oval Office meeting away from being installed as attorney general in the waning days of the Trump administration.

In June of this year, his home was searched by armed agents of the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and his electronic devices seized as part of a criminal investigation into false statements, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

The next month, the D.C. bar launched disciplinary proceedings against him.

Even with all that, Clark’s astonishing, over-the-top response to the D.C. bar probe, released Monday, offers jarring new evidence of how bonkers the man who almost became attorney general actually is.

Clark was assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources and who, in the final weeks of the Trump administration, was put in charge of the civil division. President Donald Trump wanted him in the top job because Clark — unlike the rest of the department’s hierarchy — was eager and willing to pursue Trump’s false claims that he had won the election.

Attorney General William P. Barr, before resigning in December 2020, asserted that there was no evidence of election fraud sufficient to affect the results. Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, and Richard Donoghue, the acting number two, agreed with that conclusion.

horatio-henry-couldery-a-trio-of-kittens

A Trio of Kittens, by Horatio Henry Couldery

This didn’t deter Clark, although it was far outside his job description. He drafted a letter to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and other state officials asserting that the department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states,” and urging them to call the legislature into special session.

Rosen and Donoghue refused to sign, telling Clark there was no such evidence; Clark persisted to the point of telling Rosen that Trump would name Clark as attorney general in his place so the letter could be sent. The whole scheme was derailed only after Trump was confronted with threats of mass resignations at the Justice Department.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

I’ll end with some articles about the Ron DeSantis’ exploitation of asylum seekers by sending them to Martha’s Vineyard, links only:

Raw Story: Lawmakers call for federal investigation of ‘cruel’ Ron DeSantis.

Jamelle Bouie at The New York Times: What the Martha’s Vineyard Stunt Says About the Trump Wannabes.

The Washington Post: A migrant landed on Martha’s Vineyard. A resident jumped in to help.

Miami Herald: This is how much Florida has paid an aviation company to relocate ‘unauthorized aliens.’

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, the there is so much news that I can’t possibly address everything. The Republican governors of Florida and Texas are engaging in childish behavior that actually could be categorized as human trafficking. Investigations of Trump at the DOJ, the New York Attorney General’s office, and the House January 6 Committee are moving forward. Last night CNN broke the news that Trump’s final chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with a subpoena from the DOJ.

Sometime today, we should get a decision from Judge Loose Cannon about whether she will name a  special master to examine government documents that Trump stole; if she orders a third party to look at highly classified documents, the DOJ will appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. Justice Elena Kagen issued a scathing critique of the Supreme Court. And finally, there are revelations from a new book by married reporters Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. I’ll get to as many of these stories as I can.

 

DeSantis and Abbott Use Migrants in Despicable Stunts

The Vineyard Gazette: Planeloads of Venezuelan Migrants Arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Planes carrying approximately 48 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia landed unexpectedly at Martha’s Vineyard Airport Wednesday afternoon. Island officials and volunteers quickly rallied to find temporary shelter for the group.

“We’re immigrants,” Eliase, who said he was from Venezuela, told the Gazette. “We came here because of the situation in our country, for the economy, for work, for lots of things. I came here walking. We went through 10 different countries until we got to Texas. There a refugee association put us in a plane and told us there would be work and housing here. I feel good, despite everything. We spent four days in Texas so it’s good to be here.”

State Sen. Julian Cyr said the planes originated in San Antonio, Tex., and appeared to be part of a larger campaign to divert migrants from border states.

“Just like the reverse freedom rides in the 1960s, this endeavor is a cruel ruse that is manipulating families who are seeking a better life,” Senator Cyr said. “No one should be capitalizing on the difficult circumstances that these families are in and contorting that for the purposes of a “gotcha” moment.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis later issued a statement to media outlets confirming that the airlift “was part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”

A coalition of emergency management officials, faith groups, nonprofit agencies and county and town officials were organizing food and shelter for the migrants, who spent Wednesday night at St. Andrews Church in Edgartown. The Salvation Army, among others, was providing food.

In a news release Thursday morning, the Martha’s Vineyard Humanitarian Response effort asked that inquiries about how to help be sent by email to EMD@dcsoma.org.

DeSantis used taxpayer money for this, and the immigrants were never even in Florida. 

More from NPR this morning: Migrants on Martha’s Vineyard flight say they were told they were going to Boston.

The unannounced flight drew anger from Massachusetts officials.

“We have the governor of Florida … hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane,” said state Sen. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard. “Ship them women and children to a place they weren’t told where they were going and never alerted local officials and people on the ground here that they were coming. It is an incredibly inhumane and depraved thing to do.”

NPR was able to interview three of the migrants late Wednesday. “They (the migrants) told us they had recently crossed the border in Texas and were staying at a shelter in San Antonio,” NPR’s Joel Rose said on today’s Morning Edition.

The migrants said a woman they identified as “Perla” approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers. She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.

Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, said he had recently crossed the border into Texas and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio.

“She (Perla) offered us help. Help that never arrived,” Andres said. “Now we are here. We got on the plane with a vision of the future, of making it.” He went on to explain why he boarded the plane with so little information in hand. “Look, when you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot.”

WBUR: 2 busloads of migrants dropped off near VP Harris’ residence.

Two buses of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border were dropped off near Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in residential Washington on Thursday morning in the bitter political battle over the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

It wasn’t immediately clear which Republican leader had sent them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants out of Texas to cities with Democratic mayors as part of a political strategy this year because he claims there are too many arrivals over the border to his state. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also has adopted this policy, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also got in on the act recently. It was first dreamed up by former President Donald Trump.

About two dozen men and women stood outside the U.S. Naval Observatory at dawn, clutching clear plastic bags of their belongings brought with them over the border, before moving to a nearby church. Harris’ office had no immediate comment.

This story is still developing.

Multiple Trump Investigations

CNN: Exclusive: Mark Meadows complied with DOJ subpoena in January 6 probe.

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s investigation into events surrounding January 6, 2021, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.

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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows…on October 30, 2020… (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Meadows turned over the same materials he provided to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, one source said, meeting the obligations of the Justice Department subpoena, which has not been previously reported.

Last year, Meadows turned over thousands of text messages and emails to the House committee, before he stopped cooperating. The texts he handed over between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden’s inauguration, which CNN previously obtained, provided a window into his dealings at the White House, though he withheld hundreds of messages, citing executive privilege.

In addition to Trump’s former chief of staff, one of Meadows’ top deputies in the White House, Ben Williamson, also recently received a grand jury subpoena, another source familiar with the matter tells CNN. That subpoena was similar to what others in Trump’s orbit received. It asked for testimony and records relating to January 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Williamson previously cooperated with the January 6 committee. He declined to comment to CNN.

Meadows’ compliance with the subpoena comes as the Justice Department has ramped up its investigation related to January 6, which now touches nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss – including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts, CNN reported this week.

The New York Times: N.Y. Attorney General May Sue Trump After Rejecting Settlement Offer.

The New York attorney general’s office has rebuffed an offer from Donald J. Trump’s lawyers to settle a contentious civil investigation into the former president and his family real estate business, setting the stage for a lawsuit that would accuse Mr. Trump of fraud, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The attorney general, Letitia James, is also considering suing at least one of Mr. Trump’s adult children, the people said. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., have all been senior executives at Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.

lTVs6oar_400x400

Letitia James

The likelihood of a lawsuit grew this month after Ms. James’s office rejected at least one settlement offer from Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the people said. While the Trump Organization for months has made overtures to the attorney general’s office — and the two sides could still reach a deal — there is no indication that a settlement will materialize anytime soon.

Ms. James, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, is focused on whether Mr. Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his assets and has mounted a three-and-a-half-year inquiry that has cemented her as one of the former president’s chief antagonists. Mr. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing and derided the investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, has fired back at her, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit to block her inquiry and calling Ms. James, who is Black, a racist.

A lawsuit from Ms. James would supercharge their drawn-out battle, offering her an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the former president and his business, which she vowed before taking office to “vigorously investigate.”

Axios: Jan. 6 panel’s subpoena yields “thousands” of Secret Service records.

The chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack said Wednesday that the panel has received “thousands of exhibits” from Secret Service agents in response to its July subpoena of the agency.

Why it matters: Uncovering information from the Secret Service has been a major focus for the panel since testimony during its public hearings in June and July revealed the agency’s role in key events on Jan. 6.

Driving the news: Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters that the materials obtained are “a combination of a number of text messages, radio traffic … thousands of exhibits.”

 — Thompson said the the materials consist “primarily” of texts from agents on Jan. 5 and 6, but declined to go into further detail because the committee is still reviewing them.

 — “The tranches we’ve received have been significant,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”

 — Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), another committee member, said on MSNBC on Wednesday “it’s been a large volume of information that we really pressed hard for the agency to release.”

CNN: House January 6 committee seeks more John Eastman emails.

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack is seeking another 3,200 pages of emails from John Eastman, the Trump attorney who spearheaded the far-fetched legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence could block Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s win.

The committee told a federal judge in California in a filing late Wednesday that it needs the additional documents “so that it may complete its efforts, including preparation of the final report” before the end of the year.

In the filing, House counsel Douglas Letter asked US District Court Judge David Carter to review the remaining batch of emails and decide whether Eastman’s claims of executive privilege are valid.

“In light of this exchange over the past month or so, it seems clear that further consultation with Plaintiff’s counsel will not result in the Select Committee receiving the material that it seeks in a timely manner,” the filing states. “Accordingly, the Select Committee now moves for this Court to review and rule on Plaintiff’s claims of privilege” for the remaining documents.

Judge Loose Cannon

U.S. News: Judge’s Rulings Poised to Shape Trump Document Investigation.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is expected to announce shortly a third-party attorney to review hundreds of confidential documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month, how long that special master will have to review the material and whether the Justice Department will be allowed to continue its investigation in the name of national security – highly anticipated decisions that will set the course of the prominent federal investigation.

The Justice Department has asked that Cannon rule on these matters by Thursday or it will appeal her ruling appointing a special master to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Earlier this week, Trump’s lawyers told the judge that the Justice Department should not be able to continue its review of classified material taken from Mar-a-Lago. In the 21-page filing, his legal team attempted to discredit the federal investigation, which they called “a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control,” and repeated previous claims that Trump had the ability to declassify documents while president as well as broad authority to control his records – even after he left office.

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Judge Aileen Cannon

The Justice Department filed a motion on Tuesday in response, slamming Trump’s lawyers for attempting to delay and discredit the investigation into his mishandling of national security documents, which they argued could cause “irreparable harm” to national security.

“Plaintiff [Trump] has characterized the government’s criminal investigation as a ‘document storage dispute’ or an ‘overdue library book scenario,’” the Justice Department said in a court filing. “In doing so, Plaintiff has not addressed the potential harms that could result from mishandling classified information or the strict requirements imposed by law for handling such materials.”

As it stands, the Justice Department said it would accept one of the three judges Trump’s legal team proposed as a special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, a nominee of former President Ronald Reagan who has served as a federal judge in New York since the 1980s. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit. Trump rejected the candidates put forth by the Justice Department.

Justice Elena Kagan Speaks

Politico: Kagan repeats warning that Supreme Court is damaging its legitimacy.

Justice Elena Kagan warned again on Wednesday that unsound reasoning and politically convenient conclusions have infected the Supreme Court’s recent opinions and are doing damage to the court’s standing with the American public.

“When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, when people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on a society irrespective of the law, that’s when there’s a problem — and that’s when there ought to be a problem,” Kagan said during an event at Northwestern University School of Law.

Kagan has offered similar criticism of the high court on several occasions over the past summer, following its momentous, 5-4 decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade and wiping out a federal constitutional right to abortion that had been recognized for nearly half a century.

However, the recent criticisms from Kagan, an appointee of President Barack Obama and a former Harvard Law School dean, now seem more pointed because they come just days after Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern publicly that the court’s reputation is being unfairly battered.

In her remarks on Wednesday, Kagan did not mention the landmark abortion ruling she dissented from in June, but she did refer to other decisions where, she said, the court had colored outside the lines….

Among them was a ruling the court delivered on the final day of decisions in June, striking down a key element of the Biden administration’s climate change policy on the ground that Congress should have been more explicit if it was granting the Environmental Protection Agency authority over such a “major question.”

Revelations from New Book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

Book review by David Greenberg at the New York Times: A Sober Look at the ‘Cartoonishly Chaotic’ Trump White House.

“His job wasn’t to get things done but to stop certain things from happening, to prevent disaster.” This line from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s detail-rich history of the Trump administration, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” technically applies to his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. But in truth it describes any of several dozen beleaguered helpmates to the former president, whose propensity for petulant rage kept Washington in a fit of indignation and the White House in a mode of perpetual damage control for the better part of four years. Comprehensively researched and briskly told, “The Divider”is a story of disasters averted as well as disasters realized.

Squeezing the tumultuous events of the long national fever dream that was the Donald Trump presidency between two covers — even two covers placed far apart, as is the case with this 752-page anvil — would tax the skills of the nimblest journalist. Yet the husband-and-wife team of Baker and Glasser pull it off with assurance. It’s all here: the culture wars and the corruption, the demagogy and the autocrat-love, the palace intrigue and the public tweets, the pandemic and the impeachments (plural).

To be sure, asking readers in 2022 to revisit the Sturm und Drang of the Trump years may seem like asking a Six Flags patron, staggering from a ride on the Tsunami, to jump back on for another go. But those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.

Read more at the NYT.

Links to revelations from the book:

Axios: Trump scoops from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s new book.

The Guardian: Trump chief of staff used book on president’s mental health as White House guide.

The Washington Post: Trump told Jordan’s king he would give him the West Bank, shocking Abdullah II, book says.

CNN: ‘You’re blowing this’: New book reveals Melania Trump criticized her husband’s handling of Covid.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts, and what other stories are you following?